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Arthur Schaper: Fung: Full Disclosure on Funding and Failures

Friday, January 17, 2014

 

Past failings should not inhibit one's capacity to serve the present, provided that we grow from failures, and they betray no moral failings, believes Arthur Schaper.

Mayor Allan Fung of Cranston, Rhode Island could teach Republicans, Democrats, and definitely President Barack Obama a thing or two about full disclosure: accountability and acceptance at all costs.

Donations and Donors

First, Go Local reported on Fung's campaign donations and donors earlier this year, and also last year.

He gave hundreds of dollars to Democratic candidates in the past. That sucks. Then again, Democratic mayor Taveras gave Fung money, too. Dr. Dan Harrop's own admission about funding for candidate Taveras could not make the case any better: you give money to the (oh so slighty ) better candidate. Sometimes a RINO is better than a "Hell No!" candidate. And in Rhode Island, sometimes that means settling for a Democrat.

For the record, I have friends who voted for Bill Clinton instead of Bob Dole in 1996, and sometimes I think that they made the better choice!

Later, regarding his campaign war chest,

Fung received $7,000 in donations from individual police officers. There is nothing wrong with that. Individual employees, public or private, have every right to contribute their salaries as they see fit. The real problem emerges when candidates are accepting corporate (yes, corporate!) donations from union funds, i.e. collecting donations from collective bargaining units. Whether the candidate is a Republican or a Democrat, those monies are not fully voluntary donations, since they draw from coerced union dues. Citizens United should give way to Workers Relieved, as in relieved from compelled membership and compulsory dues to a worker's union in order to have and keep a job.

By the way, RI GOP Chairman Mark Smiley gets props for saying "No!" to union money. Chairman Jim Brulte of the CA GOP took a stipend of sorts from the SEIU. Are public sector cronies are buying both sides of the aisle in Sacramento? They have already bought the Rhode Island General Assembly. Still, as long as politicians respond to individual interests instead of gang-bang bullying, then the voters can expect a government which works for everyone, not just for the gainfully employed.

Cranston Ticket Scandal

More unsettling disclosures followed in Fung's footsteps, with the ticket scandal of Cranston , a day which will live in media-hyped infamy. Let me see if I can write this up without missing the fine gritty politics underneath. Two Democrats on the city council (there are seven Dems and two Reps, plus mayor Fung). The first revelation in this scandal, asuccès de scandale, begins with Dem councilmembers Steven A. Stycos and Paul H. Archetto, who voted against a labor contract favored by (and certain to favor) the city police union. Their reason: it was too expensive.

Democrats in Rhode Island voting against an overgenerous labor contract: Has hell frozen over? (I know that Rhode Island did this year, but wow!)

Twenty-four hours afterward, Cranston police issued 128 parking tickets in the two councilmembers' wards. In effect, they sustained political retaliation for representing their constituents at the expense of expensive public sector unions. Bravo, Stycos and Archetto. The rub deepens when four anonymous letters detailed this retaliation to Stycos. Fung sparked an internal investigation, but when the tickets hit the fan, Fung called on the Rhode Island state police to get involved.

First of all, I cannot think of a stupider form or retaliation then ticketing taxpaying Cranstonites, whose representatives rejected a lavish contract, which would have come out of the pockets of the very people ticketed. Can someone shout "Chutzpah"? It's one thing to smear a harsh radio critic, but when public unions attack the very people who pay their salaries (pensions, benefits), whom they are supposed to serve, once has to wonder if they are pushing to disband themselves out of a subtle sense of misplaced guilt.

Second, Fung could have immediately sought outside firms to investigate this corruption. At least now everyone knows what unions will do to get "theirs" out of yours. Last of all, Fung demonstrated some (some!) leadership in placing Cranston police chief Marco Palombo Jr . on leave. Will this black eye leave Fung out of the running?

Maybe Fung's latest admission will, or not.

Crash Disclosure

Go Local reported this week that Fung killed a man in 1989. Scandalous? ProJo reported that 18-year-old college boy Fung lost consciousness while driving down I-95 and struck a man. A grand jury declined to indict Fung, who paid restitution to the family. Associated Press (by way of Huffington Post) provides more details from then and now. While critics may cynically assume that Fung's full disclosure flows from his drive to protect his gubernatorial run, Fung had acknowledged this terrible tragedy. . . in 2002, when he ran for city council, but ProJo declined to run the story then(!) 

Strictly speaking, this accidental death was not a secret!

Frankly, Fung's disclosure is respectable, not diminishing the painful consequences of his fatal negligence. He acknowledged the wrongdoing then and now. Leaders should not fear to acknowledge their failures. One question comes to mind: would we be as lenient with opposition candidates as well as our own who disclose previous personal failings? Past failings should not inhibit one's capacity to serve the present, provided that we grow from failures, and they betray no moral failings.

 

Arthur Christopher Schaper is a teacher-turned-writer on topics both timeless and timely; political, cultural, and eternal. A life-long Southern California resident, Arthur currently lives in Torrance. Follow him on Twitter@ArthurCSchaper, reach him at [email protected], and read more at Schaper's Corner and As He Is, So Are We Ministries.

 

Related Slideshow: 10 Questions Fung Has to Answer When Running for Gov of RI

Prev Next

10) Can Fung raise the money necessary to be competitive?

At the last reporting period, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung's campaign had only $336,000.

 

Ken Block had $540,000 and he just entered the race.  

 

Democrat Gina Raimondo has over $2.3 million and even Angel Taveras has $759,000 cash on hand.

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9) Is Fung ready for prime time?

Fung is well-liked in Cranston and most everyone thinks Fung is a "nice guy."

 

Gina Raimondo and Angel Taveras can claim they took on tough issues.

 

Ken Block articulates big ideas and a proven record in business, but out of the gate Fung's campaign seems less than ready.

 

Fung's campaign manager got confused about how many Democrats Fung has  donated to and his motivation for donating to them. 

 

Would another four years in Cranston be the wiser path?

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8) Can Fung effectively run against Angel Taveras?

Fung claims Providence Mayor Angel Taveras as a close friend, but it raises questions about inherent personal conflicts and ability to run and effective race.

 

Politics in Rhode Island is often a blood sport, will Fung approve that knockout punch TV spot in the closing weeks that tags Taveras for the spiraling crime problem in Providence?

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7) Is Fung's base big enough?

For Mayor Fung, his base is Cranston, but he does not enjoy a groundswell of Hispanic voters like Providence Mayor Angel Taveras hopes to bank on (7% of the voters were Hispanic in the General Election in 2012, according to Pew Research).

 

A race against Raimondo would be tough as she would very likely have a strong block of female voters.

 

Where does Fung get his votes?

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6) Can Fung defend the tax increases in Cranston?

When Fung runs as a Republican against a Democrat, there is an advantage if Fung can point out a differentiation of fiscal discipline. Fung, as Mayor, had numerous and significant residential and commercial tax increases.

 

This will not help him against the fiscally prudent Ken Block, but even if he were to win the primary then he would lose the advantage against Angel Taveras in a General Election. Both have ushered large tax increases through their councils.

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5) Why pledge to create "20,000 jobs"? It sounds like Don Carcieri.

Don't know if Fung was paying attention, but GOP Governor Don Carcieri ran on...creating 20,000 new jobs. 

 

When Carcieri left office, Rhode Island had the worst unemployment in America. Not sure Fung wants to mirror that Carcieri pledge.

Prev Next

4) Defending Don Carcieri and making him a part of the campaign - is that a good idea?

The collapse of 38 Studios has scarred Don Carcieri's legacy as Governor of Rhode Island. At best, Carcieri was star struck to give a baseball player $75 million -- at worse, Carcieri was part of something far more ominous.

 

For Fung, who wants to run as the future of Rhode Island, why be associated with Don Carcieri?

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3) Defending the lobbyist role?

In 2014, do we think Rhode Islanders will be looking for a former lobbyist for a large corporation that is cutting Rhode Islander's jobs to be our next Governor?

 

Lobbyist-turned-Governor will be tougher to pull off than actor Ronald Reagan-turned-Governor of California in the 1960's.

Prev Next

2) Understand the changing position on gay marriage?

Hard to know what Allan Fung's position is on gay marriage. At different times he offered a range of views.

 

Some GOP primary voters have been opposed to the RI law and others were supportive, but neither segment of the GOP may understand what his position was -- or is.  

Prev Next

1) Political donations to local, federal and national Democrats - are you sure you are a Republican?

Fung has given to David Cicilline, US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, former RI Senate President Bill Irons and once RI Attorney General Patrick Lynch. Fung's campaign manager claims he was a lobbyist and needed to donate to Democratic leaders.  Cicilline, Reid and Lynch meet none of those criteria.  

 

Not only did Fung give thousands of his own dollars to Dems, he turned down requests from leading GOP candidates like John Robitalle and Jon Loughlin who were badly outspent and needed every dollar to win.

 

The Republican party in Rhode Island is a pretty small group trying to create a pretty big tent - from Scott Avedisian to Doreen Costa. For most Republicans in this state it is tough -- you don't enjoy the political connections and you're part of a tiny minority -- so loyalty matters.

 
 

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Comments:

I respect Allan Fung for his honesty. Of course, the cynical view is that it's far better to get in front of a potential controversy than to wake up to it on talk radio. It wouldn't have taken long for even the Pro Jo to dig up the crash incident. His initial handling of the ticket scandal was slow, inept, and showed lack of leadership. And unless you vote for a party instead of a person or a policy, there's no reason to portray some cross-aisle campaign contributions as the least bit scandalous.

Fung won't bring anything to the table as governor, because the Republicans haven't had an original idea since Reagan was president (unless you count the idea of the Tea Party as original, and exclude the precedent set by the Know Nothings). In Rhode Island, the lack of ideas from the Democrats goes back to at least 1960.

Ken Block disappointed me when he chose to affiliate with an established party, but he was never going to win anything running as a Moderate, and it's far better to be in opposition to RI Democrats than in affiliation with them. Block is the only candidate with anything original to say. Unfortunately, with the dumbing down of American politics, that will probably work against him.

Comment #1 by John Onamas on 2014 01 17

John,

Good comments. I, too, think that Block is the only one putting his cards on the table. He has been bold with his claim that he will save the state $1 billion through reductions in spending, and will focus on economy and jobs.

The others seem sneaky and too easily bent by political winds. Raimondo in particular seems to have gone from fiscal realist to progressive spender of other people's money. I think we need to hear more specific plans from Fung before we can understand exactly what his vision is and whether his commitment to taxpayers is real or carved in sand.

Comment #2 by Art West on 2014 01 17

John:

The basic reason why Fung, or any other gubernatorial candidate, may or may not be effective in getting anything done rests in the fact that the GA is too powerful compared to the governor in Rhode Island.

Above all, I submit to you that this country, this state do not need better politicians, but more informed voters.

We cannot keep putting all our eggs in the "right candidate" for office.

Comment #3 by Arthur Schaper on 2014 01 17

This is an excellent and fair article on the Allen Fung story! I hope people will appreciate and respect the Mayor for clarifying a part of his history which is clearly deeply personal as obviously painful. I can relate but only in the third person. In the 70’s when I was a student at RISD, I lost a good friend, a bright 18 year old Architectural student who was killed also on I-95 while changing his tire. Another dear friend, Babs, had only months ago sold him her car. And as one could only imagine just how utterly devastated she was. Unlike the rest of us while deeply saddened with our loss, she had the added burden of feeling that she was somehow responsible. I also remember feeling deep empathy not only for Babs but also for the man who killed our friend and his whole family. In that case, there was also no wrong doing. Perhaps in many ways it made that man’s personal restitution with God even more difficult because society had not punish him and he now had to live with this guilt the rest of his life. I don’t presume to know how devastating that must have been for this man nor would I presume to judge Mayor Fung in anyway. Unless one has experienced such a devastating personally tragic event and one which will haunt you the rest of your days, none of us are in any position to judge. To my horror, listening to the various talk shows after the news, that was exactly what we got. How dare these anonymous-judgmental-bozos chastise Mr. Fung? My only conclusion is this is the angry passively aggressive couch potatoes who take great delight in trashing the humanity of other. I bet they are fans of reality TV. Mayor Fung’s revelations took enormous courage. It is irrelevant whether radio callers debate believe the news conference was “politically” or motivated by some other campaign tactic because unless you have felt the pain and have actually been there yourself, this is not one of those disgusting ratings grabbing reality TV shows you can just casually criticize or ridicule. The man is a “human being” before his is a Mayor or even a candidate for governor! SO shut up already! Message to Allen Fung: Bravo, Mr. Mayor, to me, you showed enormous courage and a commitment to be personally accountable, an all but extinct trait in our political discourse today. I gathered that you have definitely not taken a page from the White House playbook so kudos and best wishes.

Comment #4 by Dexter Liu on 2014 01 17

I agree that the RI constitution weakens the executive office, but dynamic and forceful direction can make things happen. I think of Bruce Sundlun and the new airport terminal, for instance. I also think of Chafee and his milquetoast leadership as the anti-example. I also agree that we need better informed voters, but we also need mechanisms--by the media and politicians--to inform these voters. Voters are only digesting what they are being fed. We need to improve the diet. Big steps in that direction would be the return of the media fairness doctrine and serious campaign reform that limits campaign spending among other things. Of course, the latter is moot unless Citizens United is overcome legislatively or constitutionally.

Comment #5 by John Onamas on 2014 01 17

"Voters are only digesting what they are being fed. We need to improve the diet. Big steps in that direction would be the return of the media fairness doctrine and serious campaign reform that limits campaign spending among other things. Of course, the latter is moot unless Citizens United is overcome legislatively or constitutionally."

A couple if issues:

"Voters being fed" -- do you assume that individual citizens can only receive information directly given to them, that they cannot retrieve information on their own?

""the media fairness doctrine" -- fairness is in the eyes of the imposer, or imposter, for that matter. "Fairness" has become a magic word for permitting policies which end creating more unequal outcomes. Consider Obamacare or single-payer systems, which have sponsored increased inequality in access to health care.


"Of course, the latter is moot unless Citizens United is overcome legislatively or constitutionally."

How has Citizens United contributed to uninformed or misinformed voters? 2012 election, with massive expenditures in campaign financing, and the election outcomes were even more evenly split than in 2008.

"I also agree that we need better informed voters, but we also need mechanisms--by the media and politicians--to inform these voters"

Once again, this assumption rest on (very debatable at best) premise of government as originator of bold and better reforms and ideas.

John:

"I'll give anyone a mulligan for a first mistake, but four times is three times too many in my opinion."

Comment #6 by Arthur Schaper on 2014 01 17

"Do you assume that individual citizens can only receive information directly given to them, that they cannot retrieve information on their own?" No I don't. But many people are sheep, and will only eat what is put into the trough in front of them. Other people only start to pay attention during election cycles, and that's not good enough.

You misunderstood what I mean by the fairness doctrine. This is the name for a policy held by the FCC that all broadcasters provide equal time to controversial issues and to opposing candidates as a condition of their license. After years of pressure from the Reagan administration, the fairness doctrine was revoked by the FCC, for some valid First Amendment reasons. This has led to the proliferation of ratings- and earning-driven "news" networks, the troughs of which I speak.

Citizens United has led to massive amounts of money from well-funded special interest groups seeking to shape the outcome of elections in ways that benefit them. Especially insidious are funding efforts from groups from other parts of the country to influence state and local elections. The trough was already overflowing without adding to it.

"Once again, this assumption rest on (very debatable at best) premise of government as originator of bold and better reforms and ideas." Whom do think would originate campaign finance reform? It would require legislation, correct?

I'll give you a mulligan for your ignorance about the fairness doctrine.

Comment #7 by John Onamas on 2014 01 17

Thanks for your comments and your responses, John.

I am all about free markets, free enterprise, and free people. I appreciate your discussion.

I hope that more people will receive new information.

The questions to start answering:

1. Why are so many voters not paying attention, not caring, choosing to vote for the same failed policies and politicians.

2. How can anyone engage voters to be informed.

Comment #8 by Arthur Schaper on 2014 01 17

I assume that I am free to believe that the responsibility lies with the voters and the politically motivated special interest groups and politicians.

Regarding the fairness doctrine: when I was a kid my mother was a Republican and my father a Democrat. When a politician would appear on TV one of my parents would try to change the channel when he was done, and the other would say, not so fast, my guy is on next. Even campaign ads used to be back to back on TV. It wasn't possible to flood markets with ads, because the other guy would get his time too, even if it was an old ad. Call me old-fashioned, but it was a better country then, and I think that system produced better leaders.

Comment #9 by John Onamas on 2014 01 17

Jesus is not happy with the den of thieves the velvet mafia has created.

Comment #10 by donatello gori on 2014 01 18

I love you geniuses with the "oh the problem is, the voters are uninformed". Like anyone who doesn't vote or think like you do is just ignorant and not as smart as you, poor things. I've got news for you. Everyone has access to the same information you do. And because someone disagrees with you doesn't mean that you know more than them. They just have a different opinion. And if you don't like what's being reported in the media, it doesn't mean it's the wrong thing to report, it just means it's not what you want to hear, probably because it illustrates how wrong you are...

Comment #11 by D Regnan on 2014 01 18

Donatello: "Jesus is not happy with the den of thieves the velvet mafia has created."

Explain.

D Regnan: "Everyone has access to the same information you do."

First, you are assuming that the information is unbiased or balanced. The Media has spent more time on the Bridge(gate) than Benghazi, or the IRS persecutions, or Operation Fast and Furious, or the many other scandals and failures of this Presidency. The "Mainstream" media is also ignoring the epic failure of President Obama's middle eastern foreign policy, whereas during the Bush Administration, the media just hammered the president's policies, as well as his flubs on TV.

"Like anyone who doesn't vote or think like you is just ignorant and not as smart as you, poor things."

After eighty -- eighty! -- years of Democratic rule in the Rhode Island General Assembly, do you believe that the voters in the state are making informed decisions to keep sending tax-and-spend folly to represent them, even as the state goes bankrupt with unfunded pension liabilities and a hostile business climate which encourages people to leave rather than stay and settle?

Comment #12 by Arthur Schaper on 2014 01 18

Don't tell me what I'm assuming. There is biased unbiased and everything in between. I'm sure you think Fox news is unbiased because they say what you want to hear. Stop crying about Bengazi. Or better yet, why don't you tell us what happened. you have no clue because like everyone else, you weren't there. But go ahead, tell us exactly what happened. Anything you say you heard in the Media.
The voters in this state and every other one are making their decisions based on whatever they want to base it on, Some are 'informed' some are not. It's no different here than anywhere else. And yeah everyone is leaving, for eighty years now. It's a wonder there's anyone left. For someone who lives in California you sure do a lot of hang wringing about Rhode Island. I'm going to cheer you up though, just when you thought you knew everything, and are so informed, you can stop worrying about the state going "bankrupt', because states can't.....

Comment #13 by D Regnan on 2014 01 19

Mayor Allan Fung is a breath of fresh air amongst all of these RI Politicians. Talk about courage and honesty... he only gained more respect amongst ALL voters, not just Republicans. The City of Cranston is doing great (aside from the police crap which he had nothing to do with) - I was Torn between Gina and Fung (if either makes it through their primary) - but now that Gina is going extreme leftist, Fung is my front runner and I don't think any one should be surprised if he pulls this off. While I like a few things Block has to say, I don't think he can beat any of the Democrats in the general election.

Comment #14 by Rhodey Rhodes on 2014 01 20




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